August Pride, and Tribe, and Prejudice

August 29, 2023

It’s “Authentic August” here at LoCo Think Tank, and our challenge to our members is to not only be your true self, but stretch toward being your best self! As many members can attest, this is often reached by having the perspective of a trusted group - a tribe - of people who can give you honest feedback while keeping your best interest in mind.

We’ve all heard “You do you,” but that isn’t the kind of feedback that helps you grow. Sometimes that’s just code for “I don’t like what you’re doing but I can’t stop you.” The value of having a tribe is that they call us out on self-destructive, passive-aggressive, self-limiting, aimlessly dreaming, or even caustic behaviors that don’t serve us and can damage the culture of our teams.  

At the end of the day, we all want to be proud of who we are and what we’ve created in our businesses. So - how do we have the humility to be our true self and trust the feedback of our tribe to become our best self? A self we can take pride in?  

Considering Unique Attributes

It was my birthday the other day, August 20 in case you want to send a card next year - or drop a happy birthday on my page. 🙂  The story I like to share of the special provenance of my birth date is this: 1974 was the year of the Tiger in the Chinese Horoscope, August 20 is Leo, (the Lion), and of course my last name is Bear - oh my!  When I shared this the other day with my fellow volunteer at the Realities Ride & Rally, he planted an ear-worm song in me from the Lion in the Wizard of Oz - “If I were the King of the foorrrest…” - which I found myself singing in my head for too much of the day!  But it did get me thinking about the lion, and the King of the Jungle status conferred, particularly as compared to bears and tigers.  

I was reminded of a Lex Fridman podcast where he asked his guest, John Danaher, who would win in a fight between a Grizzly Bear, Silverback Gorilla, or a lion, or a tiger.  It’s a fairly fascinating, though extensive conversation, so I’ll summarize: Firstly, John determines that the lion would be the superior cat to enter the contest, although it gives up sometimes hundreds of pounds to the tiger.  Tigers are solitary creatures, and very rarely fight with their own kind beyond small territorial skirmishes. Lions, by contrast, keep large prides of females and young together, and are constantly playing king of the mountain against other adult lions for control and breeding rights of the pride, so they get a lot of practice time. 

The same principles largely apply to the contest between lion and bear and gorilla. The gorilla, though an amazing and powerful creature, would have a tough time against both the bear and the lion - a gorilla can’t even make a fist, and has fingernails instead of the 4+ inch claws of the lion and bear.  And bears, though massive, shy away from the kinds of intense confrontations that lions live with constantly.. And so the lion not only has perhaps the strongest chance of winning on an individual basis, but he also has the pride behind him.  Maybe a dozen tough cat ladies ready to jump into battle against a powerful opponent.  Clearly the King of the Jungle - who’s going to challenge?

The Power of a Tribe

Thankfully, rising through the ranks to become a leader in our human organizations doesn’t require the same level of bloodsport!  But a pride is a lot like a tribe, and that relates to our theme today.

In late July, we had our inaugural Next Level Summit at Sky Corral Ranch.  This was a gathering of our largest regional business owner members, for a whole day - away from it all but only an hour away - highly recommend!  One of my highlights from the day was from a talk by Drew Yancey, in which he shared the following two principles: 

1) You can’t lead others effectively if you can’t lead yourself well 

2) It’s very difficult to change yourself - by yourself.  

Drew was speaking to the notion of being Next Level and to the value of peer advisory: having a safe place where you can be you, though you’re not yet who you ultimately want to be. If we want to lead others well we need others around us to help us see our own gaps - and our strengths - and get an informed perspective on challenges and opportunities.

The best books and speakers often reinforce the notion that leadership - including self-leadership - is a team sport!  “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together” is an old African proverb, and in my mind it applies not only to travel, but to organizations as well.  A team working together to create and deliver value in an enterprise will have far greater impact in the long run, and if that team is helping one another lead well the impact is magnified all the more!

On Exclusivity & Values

The notion of a pride, or team of any sort, is that not everyone can be a part of it - it’s exclusive.  So how do we determine who should be on the team or in the tribe - and who should not?!  In my podcast conversation (Episode 85) with Mark Weaver, he suggested that it starts with an examination of the authentic culture of the leader - or the leadership team.  If your leadership team is a bunch of workaholics, you might as well just own it and hire other workaholics. It’s not gonna work if you keep hiring those looking for “work-life balance” and losing them when they realize they don’t fit the culture.  

Once we know the authentic culture and values of the company, it’s good to get them down on paper - and up on the walls!  Earlier this year, we reexamined and refreshed the LoCo Think Tank Mission, Vision, and Values. These serve as a great identifier of who fits - whether they be a member prospect, facilitator, or staff.  In our LoCommunity, the top values we identified were Authentic Sharing, Collaboration, Diversity, Free Thought, Integrity, Self-Awareness, Trust and Mutual Respect. We took some time putting meat on each of those bones (and trimming the fat as needed) to identify how it pertains to our settings and circumstances.

Now that we’ve clarified our authentic values, we can spend some time incorporating them into our processes for hiring and training and culture-building. We can select interview questions that help identify these important values and reinforce them with training immediately after hire. And, importantly, we can celebrate events and occurrences that resonate with our corporate culture.  We can also invest in team-building activities to help teammates better connect, and platforms such as Hallos Relational Intelligence to build self-awareness and relational intelligence to better understand each other.

At this point the LoCo HQ tribe fully understands why we’re here, what we’re trying to accomplish, and what our core values are along that journey. And in the greater LoCommunity, we may discover that some members don’t vibe with the tribe. That’s when we must apply a useful word with sometimes bad connotations - prejudice! 

When to Part Ways

Sometimes in the context of a group or team, or in a particular environment, attributes come forward that could not have been identified in an interview. Being with the right people in the right context can have amazing results, and that is what we strive to cultivate for each of our chapters. But if a particular combination doesn’t bring out the best in someone, we wish them the best and hope that they will soon find the best tribe where they can shine.

I think almost all of us have been in an organization where the departure of a caustic person led to a collective sigh of relief from the team; or have witnessed organizational decline when a mis-fitted person is put into a position of leadership.  Try as we might, we will make mistakes in our hiring process or in our promotions, and when it becomes apparent that we have - it’s best not to wait.  If it’s a skills misalignment, perhaps there is another role in the company where they can be successful - but if it’s values alignment, it’s often best to cut the cord.  Hire slowly, fire quickly; rinse and repeat.  Yes, build the systems and processes that you find can best ensure good hires and reviews and promotions, and when they fail - take action.  

Pride in the Tribe

If you’re like many of us, taking that action can be the hardest part of being a leader. But if you’ve taken the time to lead yourself first, as Drew suggested, clarifying who you are and what you stand for, then it becomes easier to communicate that to your team. In fact, it almost becomes self-evident when a course correction needs to happen. 

If there’s one thing I’ve seen separate great organizations from average ones over the years, it’s the pride in the tribe, the prejudice to act on those who don’t fit in.  Finding, and cultivating, the right tribe and culture makes all the difference.  

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